Thursday, October 20, 2011

ows: the strategic brilliance of facelessness

crmbuyer | The Occupy Wall Street Movement has sometimes been criticized for having no demands and no distinct leader. However, this is one of its strengths. Leaders can be discredited on an individual basis, though in the days before all of our new social and mobile technology, it may have been necessary to operate close to the center with leaders and manifestos. Social media does that work now.

I am developing an appreciation of the Occupy Wall Street movement that surprises me. You know the news about it and how over the weekend the movement went global. You probably also know that the authorities are not dealing with it effectively. They've been content to watch and wait, hoping that the movement will exhaust itself. That's a good strategy for the last millennium, and the movement may wear out if only because as winter approaches it gets harder to remain committed to living on the street. But I wouldn't bet on it.

That end game is not assured, and my interest is in the day-to-day workings of the movement. There is no leader and as yet there are no demands, which is part of the brilliance of everything that has transpired. Let me tell you why I think so.

The Trouble With Spokespersons
Demands would require a leader, someone to give a face and a name to the demands. Without formal demands, we are left to presume from the actions of the loose group that it is protesting the situation that drove the economic crisis in 2008, which has not been resolved to anyone's satisfaction and which is responsible for the dismal economic outlook -- especially for people in their 20s looking for their first real jobs.

So there's neither message nor demands, but with a nod and a wink we all know what's unspoken. But look at the effect this has. No spokesperson means no individual for the media to fixate on, and that means the message can't be diverted very easily.

Compare this to the WikiLeaks situation. Julian Assange quickly became the focus of the controversy. His organization made the leaks, but Assange's personality was quickly the story, and it was instantly trashed, up to and including arrest on specious charges related to sexual misconduct. In short order, the controversy became the man, and the issues over which he'd hoped to spark a discussion evaporated when a more salacious story became available -- one that required much less effort on the part of the fifth estate to bring to us. This well-worn script suddenly isn't wearing well.


Tom said...

Also leaders are subject to co-opting as soon as they're identified.  Very few (of my people at least) can turn down a good gig with TPTB.   I wish I had one right now, as a matter of fact.

Greg Thrasher said...


John Kurman said...

Off topic, but... I never understood why the Guy Fawkes mask became the icon for the anit-authoritarians. I mean, I understand how he became an action hero and all, and thus, throught the fucked up low signal-to-noise medium of popular culture, became this stupid mask. But the guy himself? Guido Fawkes? Incompetent fuckup. Superstitious Primitive. Fought for the asshole Spaniards in oppressing the Low Countries. In short, just exactly the opposite of...oh, I see... just the image to hijack any righteous behavior. No wonder the dimwit Wachowski brothers used him in one of their many awful, shitty movies. These subversions would also explain Assange, just another puffed-up psychotic ready to take his place in the history books. Sweet baby Jebus our species is all fucked up.

Now, me, I'd wear a Big Lebowksi mask. The Dude Abides.
"Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski. Condolences. The bums lost. My
advice is to do what your parents did; get a job, sir. The bums will
always lose. Do you hear me, Lebowski?"

Shit, I think I have to watch that movie yet AGAIN.

CNu said...


I just returned from visiting a state of the art planeterium under construction and was blown away by what I saw. One of the teaser trailers for the field "trip" (that's what they call the programs) was a 3-D rendering to the planetarium dome of the Apollo-11 mission. Not only was I blown away by the light and sound and sensory shake-up involved with the presentation, but equally awed by the terrible fragility of the lunar vehicle(s) themselves on which the survival of the astronauts depended. A victim of Time-Life books when a boy, a voracious and encouraged consumer of sci-tech at home and at school, and just an all-around sucker for the drama of maximum human extremity and endeavor - it hit me like a ton of bricks just how narrow the odds and how badass the technology was that made that excursion and return possible.

In the moment of my deepest living-memory awe at what I was looking at, it dawned on me with complete certainty that the children who will be the primary beneficiaries of these field "trips" will look at those Apollo vehicles and sneer and comment on how "janky" and "wack" that raggedy looking jawnt is, and wonder why there was no Millenium Falcon or summin that looked more regal and cool ferrying humans from the earth to the moon.

John Kurman said...

Agreed. No one really realizes how touch-and-go the whole program was. They might as well have made the LEM from bamboo and wax paper for as rickety as it actually was. A major, major set of gonads to ride in that thing, once you know what the odds were. and even today, with the ISS, people just don't get risk. Me? I'd go in a heartbeat, but I also know I'd be safer in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone than in low earth orbit.

And since you are a fan of the Do The Math guy, I'm surprised you didn't promote his "Why Not Space?" entry:

"Out of a total of 109 students responding (one group in 2006, another in
2010), only 11% got the right answer: low Earth orbit. 52% thought
humans had been as far as the Moon since the 1980′s, and 20% thought we
had been farther than the Moon. Some were indignant on learning the
truth: “What do we use the space shuttle for, if not to go to the
Moon?!” I can only guess that some students imagined the International
Space Station as a remote outpost, certainly beyond the Moon, and likely
strategically located next to a wormhole. How disappointing it must be
to learn that it merely hugs the globe."

nanakwame said...

Yes T. Murphy has a humbleness about him

A little less hubris in
predicting our future would be nice.

Don’t trust people who
claim to know our future path: especially at this turning point in history when
the energy inheritance that made our current lifestyle possible will begin its decline
this century. How we manage that is an open question, but our presupposition
that it’s in the bag may prevent our success.

CNu said...

lol, still crying about my certainty that killer-apes will do what killer-apes do..., but I ain't hear you cry about the scorpion and the frog or ever question the common sense wisdom of the same...,

Big Don said...

" ...The fable is used to illustrate the position that the behaviour of *some_creatures* is irrepressible, no matter how they are treated and no matter what the consequences."

Whoa!!  Never truer words...

CNu said...

Lol, those troglodytes that painted themselves blue ain't no joke..., same for their descendants.